Saturday, December 3, 2016

Memories

I drive out of the rental car parking structure;  I'm greeted by a rainbow stretching halfway across the sky. Like Noah of old, rainbows hold special promise to me.

I've returned to Hawaii, and although I have never been a resident, the islands have played a small part in my life.

My first visit was as a teenager in the company of friends. We were enjoying a two day R&R after six weeks of travel in the Far East. We had rented mopeds, and supposedly, as they sat aghast, couldn't understand how a car in the road hadn't hit me when I'd made an erroneous turn. I was oblivious.

With only a few years into our marriage, Hawaii became a favorite destination. We loved the water, the mountains, the winding, fern covered roadsides. Eventually we discovered the wild growing lilikoi and we'd go on lilikoi hunting adventures through jungle. We kayaked the enchanting and mysterious Kauai Coast--twice. When my sister attended the University of Hawaii, Mom, my sister, and me, made regular trips; when she graduated, Dad came with us.

My connection goes back further than my first visit. When just a little girl, a favorite aunt and uncle discovered the Hawaiian islands. I try to imagine what the islands were like in the late 1960s. Aunt Marilyn brought back grass skirts and bikini tops for all the girl cousins and taught us the hookie lau song and dance. One Christmas Eve at the annual party, all eleven of us performed in Aunt Virginia and Uncle Herman 's family room with a stage. The moment is so memorable thanks to home movies. As we turned in a circle, my grass skirt wasn't completely tied, and I was the little girl with her underwear showing.

We are here again, because my soon to be 79 year old mother enjoys spending her birthdays in Hawaii. What a privilege it is being in her company to celebrate her birthday! Celebrating with Mom always includes thoughts of Dad. Thoughts of a rainbow. It's why the sight of the rainbow when I first drove brought tears to my eyes and a flood of memories.

As Dad got older, when we ate out, he never ordered enough food for himself. "I'll have a small cup of soup," he would say, or "I'm not hungry enough to order a meal," and so one of the great privileges was sitting next to Dad and having him finish off my meal.

It was a perfect weather night when we sat at a big round table, on a big deck, next to the ocean. The sun was just setting when we had finished our delicious Chinese meal, and the fortune teller came out. The sky was Hawaiian, the atmosphere Hawaiian, and there was a lot of love around that table. The moment was mystical, even kind of reverent. Our bellies were full ( and I'd had the joy of sharing with Dad), my sister had successfully completed her first college degree, most of all--we were all together. It is moments like these that flood my mind when I return to Hawaii--and to be greeted by a rainbow--was sacred.

On the morning I learned my father's death was imminent, the Florida sky was filled with a magnificent rainbow. I brought out the children to share the awe, and we sat outside mesmerized by its beauty, significance, and timeliness. That rainbow was a promise to me as much as it was to Noah's family. The rainbow held a promise that life would continue no matter the circumstances, no matter the hardship, the deluges, the floods of destruction. And so I am gathered in Hawaii again under the most sacred of circumstances--with family, with blessed memories, and knowing that one day too,  going to Hawaii will only be with memories of Mom.